Air Canada is the latest airline to offer free COVID-19 insurance for eligible travelers

Sep 20, 2020

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Air Canada is the latest in a series of international airlines that are offering complimentary coverage for coronavirus.

In August, Virgin Atlantic introduced what it claimed would be the most comprehensive of all COVID-19 policies offered by any airline, with no excess payable and available at no cost to passengers. And Etihad joined the pack in early September, promising to cover medical and quarantine costs incurred by travelers who contract COVID-19 after flying with the airline, Reuters reported.

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Here’s what each airline is offering.

Air Canada

Air Canada’s coronavirus insurance will apply to all round-trip international flights booked between Sept. 17 and Oct. 31, 2020, for travel completed on or before April 12, 2021.

Here’s the major catch: The coverage is only offered to Canadian residents subject to eligibility requirements, and covers every international destination served by Air Canada.

If Canadian travelers test positive for COVID-19 while abroad, Air Canada’s Manulife plan will provide:

  • Up to $200,000 Canadian dollars per insured traveler for COVID-19 treatment medical expenses
  • Up to $150 Canadian dollars per person, per day, for quarantine costs, such as meals and accommodation
  • Up to $300 Canadian dollars per family, per day, up to a maximum of 14 days
  • Up to $500 Canadian dollars for expenses related to returning home if the travel advisory from the Canadian government goes from Level 3 to Level 4 while the traveler is away from home.

Customers who book Air Canada Vacations will receive a different complimentary protection plan through Allianz, designed to cover emergency medical and quarantine expenses if the traveler contracts COVID-19 during their vacation. This plan is available to all eligible customers who book an Air Canada Vacations package to an eligible destination, as long as all travel is completed on or by April 30, 2021.

Unfortunately, eligibility is even more restricted for Air Canada Vacations coverage. An eligible traveler:

  • must be over the age of 15 days old
  • cannot have tested positive for COVID-19 within thirty (30) days of departure
  • cannot exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 within fourteen (14) days of departure
  • cannot be traveling to the U.S.
  • must be traveling to an applicable destination in the Caribbean or Mexico
  • must be a Canadian resident
  • have a valid Government Health Insurance Plan (GHIP)
  • cannot be a resident of Saskatchewan, which is excluded from the coverage plan

Air Canada previously extended its goodwill policy for flight changes: Any travel booked through Dec. 31, 2020, can be changed without fees for new dates through Dec. 31, 2021.


Passengers who contract the coronavirus within 31 days of flying with Etihad will have medical costs covered up to €150,000 (approximately $177,000) and quarantine costs up to 100 euros ($118) per day for two weeks. This policy is particularly generous given the full month’s window of coverage eligibility following an Etihad flight.

Etihad’s insurance is offered through Axa, and will be baked into the cost of airfare until the end of 2020.

The additional coverage is designed to not only “instill confidence to travel,” said Etihad vice president Duncan Bureau in a statement, but also to “reassure” travelers that the airline is doing everything possible to keep flyers “safe and protected.”

Related: The ultimate guide to travel insurance

Virgin Atlantic

On Aug. 31, Virgin Atlantic began automatically offering COVID-19 coverage to all existing and new bookings. The insurance kicks in if a customer becomes ill with COVID-19 during on a Virgin Atlantic flight.

The coverage will be valid for all Virgin Atlantic flights from Aug. 24, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic Holidays customers will benefit from the coverage as long as their flights are with Virgin Atlantic. The coverage extends even further to those passengers flying on partner airline metal like Delta or Air France/KLM, so long as they’re traveling on a Virgin Atlantic-issued ticket.

There is a catch, though: This insurance applies to COVID-19 only and would not replace a traditional travel insurance policy. If, for example, you were involved in a motor vehicle accident during your trip, this policy would not cover your expenses, as they’re not related to COVID-19.

Related: Does my travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Virgin’s insurance with Allianz Assistance includes emergency medical costs, associated expenses such as transport, accommodation and repatriation up to £500,000 ($650,000) for all passengers listed on the same booking. Additional coverage includes £3,000 ($3,900) for customers who might get denied boarding whether leaving or returning home as well as being held in quarantine. Passengers will also benefit from 24-hour emergency medical assistance, wherever they are in the world.

Unlike many other regular insurance policies, Virgin’s comes with no excess payable. It includes coverage for the whole trip, irrespective of time away, age or passenger or cabin class of the flight. The insurance even includes one-way flights and covers passengers up to 12 hours after arriving at their destination.

In times when demand for travel has reached unprecedented lows, airlines are struggling to fill their planes and convince wary customers to book flights. By taking additional measures such as providing extra insurance in the COVID-19 era, these airlines are hoping to give flyers additional peace of mind.

“Whether it’s to visit friends and relatives or take a well-deserved break, we believe that this complimentary cover will provide some added reassurance for our customers as they start to plan trips further afield,” said Juha Jarvinen, Virgin’s chief commercial officer in a statement.

Additional reporting by Melanie Lieberman and Katherine Fan.  

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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